The sounds of spring are back.
Not the chirping of birds ore the voices of spectators emerging from the winter doldrums and taking to the great outdoors to enjoy the weather but the sound of bats cracking and leather popping.
After opening with eight games on the road, the Durango High School baseball team is back home, ready to open the home schedule at 3:30 p.m. today against Grand Junction at DHS.
The Demons (5-3, 2-0 Southwestern League) are coming off their first road sweep of Fruita Monument and Grand Junction Central since 2009, the last time they won the SWL crown. It was the first time they had done it to open the SWL season, however, in head coach Rob Coddington’s tenure, and the 28 total runs DHS scored on the trip has the team feeling good heading into games with the always-tough Tigers and Montrose, which is ranked No. 4 in Class 4A by The Denver Post.
“I had never beaten Fruita before (at the varsity level), so it was a big W,” Marcus Sansoni said. “Going into this weekend, I feel like we can take them both this weekend, too. ... If we just do half (of what we did last weekend), we’ll win both of these games.”
Sansoni has been one of the biggest catalysts for Durango offensively after not playing an inning defensively last year as a junior. The tall, lanky first baseman is tied for second in the SWL in RBIs with 12 as one of Durango’s staples in the middle of the order. He said the experience gained playing over the summer with Coddington’s Connie Mack team translated well this season.
“I wouldn’t have been able to hit the way I have now if I didn’t play the summer baseball, just because before this summer I haven’t seen varsity pitching,” said Sansoni, son of Ron and Melissa Sansoni.
A good chunk of the lineup are familiar faces from last season. Easton Garcia and Connor Dugan still sit near the top of the order and still hold down the defense in the middle of the infield. Danny Rowley helps Sansoni anchor the middle of the order, with outfielders Joe Keresey, Clay Haidaris and Christian Vigil and pitcher/third baseman Joe Brennan typically filling out the rest of the lineup card.
George Mayberry was cleared to return to action this week after a knee injury suffered during football season healed up, and sophomore Blake Dunlap has been impressive in limited duty at third base.
“We were coming off a couple of losses in the Piedra Vista Tournament, trying to get some guys comfortable at the plate. I think some of them were starting to feel a lot better on Saturday against Central,” Coddington said of his lineup.
On the mound, Brennan and Rowley have and will continue to take the bulk of the starts, with Keresey and Vigil handling a bulk of the relief duties. Brennan is 2-1 with a 4.04 ERA in 17 1/3 innings, and Rowley sits at 3-0 with a 3.89 ERA in 18 innings.
Combining pitching and catching isn’t easy on the legs, which is why Rowley opted to sit out the basketball season to conserve as much energy as possible.
“Icing a lot. Putting my legs up and stuff just to rest them and stuff, try to take it easy a little bit,” said Rowley, son of Darren and Kari Rowley.
This weekend is a big one for all involved, and a sweep for Durango would provide the Demons with a nice cushion on the rest of what’s shaping up to be a challenging SWL. Hosting in the postseason for the second consecutive year is the goal for Coddington’s squad, and he knows that an SWL title would go a long way.
“I don’t think they want to just settle for being in a playoff spot,” Coddington said. “They want to compete for the league title. ”
Steve Lewis/Durango Herald photos